The San Jose Sharks aren’t a particularly menacing species of the shark family these days, especially if when confronted by a school of them on the ice, you simply fight back.
That at least is what the Detroit Red Wings can surmise after a third period collapse by the Sharks and equally panic stricken overtime on Wednesday night, a performance which gave the Wings a 3-2 victory last night, taking that best of seven series to a 2-2 tie.
San Jose appeared to be ready to devour the Red Wings in the first period, bouncing the Wings off the boards, taking the puck to Domenik Hasek’s crease and putting two goals behind the Wings goaltender, goals that should have placed Detroit on the cusp of elimination.
Instead, a third period press by the Wings totally overwhelmed the Sharks, a team that looked very frightened and played far too tentatively to survive the onslaught of a veteran team as the Wings.
A badly timed penalty by Craig Rivet for flipping the puck over the glass, followed by a terrible giveaway by Scott Hannan, provided Mathieu Schneider the opportunity to end the overtime and steal away a win for the Wings.
While the Sharks may complain about the nautre of that penalty (like many other teams this year), Hannan’s attempt at a clearing pass up the middle was perhaps the poorest decision made by a Shark in recent history. Almost a perfect pass to the stick of Schnieder, it was as easy a set up as a Red Wing might expect in the playoffs.
However, San Jose should look no further than their own play in the second and third periods for the loss, an inability to clear the puck, to take the game to the Wings and to shut down their attack before it got started was the reason they lost the game.
In the second the Sharks gave up a last minute goal as Tomas Holstrom capitalized on sloppy play from the Sharks to pull the Wings within one goal heading to period number three , in a eerie coincidence Robert Lang would reprise the scenario in the third, sending the game to overtime.
Far too often they appeared to be like a salmon caught in the glare of a Shark’s eyes, in this game the hunters became the hunted. The sloppy and tenuous play of the Sharks rendered another outstanding performance by Evgeni Nabakov as moot, taking away from Jonathon Cheechoo’s intense play and his key scoring play of the first and what should have been the putaway goal by Marcel Goc in the second.
The Sharks now start the series all over; it’s a best of three competition with two of the three in the friendly confines of the Joe. It could very well be that as this series winds down, the octopus will have the upper hand on the Shark.
There are many species of sharks in the ocean, the Great White which the Sharks fancy themselves to be (more attacks on people than any other type; The Wobbegong with a style that is this best exemplefied by their third period collapse (lies on the bottom of the ocean waiting for fish to come near); and there’s the Zebra shark which they resembled by the end of overtime (small, gentle shark that can be kept in an aquarium with other fish).
But if the Sharks don’t get their act together they may find they best resemble the Goblin Shark, (which frequently lives in deep water, and was believed to have been extinct for 100 million years).
Which just may be the amount of time it takes the Sharks to recover from the self inflicted problems they are making for themselves.